With the majority of Starkville residents confined to their homes last week because of a winter storm, local musician Tahj Mckey sacrificed his safety by delivering goods and supplies to those in need.
Mckey became involved with Starkville Strong Facebook group at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic because he was trying to find ways to give back to the community during the difficult time. He said that he has continuously volunteered his time to the organization because it has made an impact not only on the community but on himself.
“Being able to drive and deliver things to people made an impact because people couldn’t get out of their homes,” Mckey said. “People that I was delivering to were literally stuck in their homes, and some didn’t even have electricity. For this one order, we had to bring gas to a family, and their power went out, and they were running off of a generator. So, we went to the gas station and pumped two gallons of gas and took it all the way to Macon so this family could survive the rest of the night.”
Inclement weather invaded the Golden Triangle last week, bringing freezing temperatures, icy roads and extreme winter precipitation. Many community members offered delivery services and rides to those needing to get to appointments, work or other necessary obligations.
“Several people posted on our Starkville Strong Facebook page offering to give rides to people,” Starkville Strong Executive Director Brandi Herrington said. “It wasn’t necessarily us. It’s just that our platform was there for people to communicate with one another, for people to come on and say what they can do to help.”
Mckey said he along with other Starkville Strong volunteers found ways to ensure their community had items to endure through the storm.
“There are a lot of people who need a lot of things done,” Mckey said. “It was very helpful for older people who are on Facebook and didn’t know who to ask for help. They can just type a status asking for help. It gives them a direct answer to what they need. It has definitely been an asset.”
Herrington said aside from helping give rides, people from Starkville Strong kept people in need fed as they rode out the winter storm.
“During the ice storm, everybody started filling the food pantries, and they (food pantries) were emptying out within 15 minutes,” Herrington said. “So people started walking to these little food pantries in the snow and filling them up.”
Starting a movement
Starkville Strong, founded originally by musician Jimmy Redd to assist with food insecurity at the start of the pandemic, is a social media group aimed at meeting the immediate needs of people in the community. After the group’s rapid growth, which now has about 8,400 members on Facebook, Redd handed the reins to Herrington, a former middle school teacher from Starkville.
Herrington said immediate needs the group aims to meet include transportation, food insecurity, housing and many others.
“Meeting these people in the community, you learn that they don’t know much about resources,” Herrington said. “I’ve compiled all of the resources available here in town. Basically Starkville Strong has become the intake center. People refer them to me, and then I tell them all the places they can go for business. We fill in the gaps.”
Lisa McReynolds, a moderator for Starkville Strong’s Facebook page, said the group has drawn plenty of community participation.
“It’s greatly impacted the community because more and more people are becoming aware of the group,” McReynolds said. “If someone has a problem, people will message us with whatever problems are going on.”
Herrington said Starkville Strong has partnerships with all of the nonprofits in the community. Many people will turn to Starkville Strong for whatever aid they may need, and Starkville Strong then refers them to a nonprofit that can help grant assistance.
“I’ve compiled all of the resources available here in town, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know these nonprofits. They don’t get as much recognition as they deserve,” Herrington said. “I think acknowledging everybody’s part is what will create long-term success.”
This week, Starkville Strong has joined forces with several local businesses to not only promote shopping local but also to raise money in support of those in the community who need it most, Herrington said.
“We wanted to find a way for those businesses who might not know how to get involved with us to partner with us,” Herrington said. “We want to be able to make it convenient for local businesses to be a part and help.”
Fourteen businesses in the Starkville Main Street Association are taking part in this “Shop Local. Help Local.” campaign. Participating businesses are offering different promotions, such as 10-to 15-percent off of sales or 10-percent off with a donation to Starkville Strong. This campaign is happening today through Saturday.
“As a group, we have one main goal: helping out our neighbor,” McReynolds said. “We just want to lend that helping hand.”
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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